Mamata Banerjee offers Bengal model in Tripura
Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday highlighted the Trinamul Congress’s model of development in Bengal in a bid to woo voters in the poll-bound Tripura and asserted that her party was the only option if the people of the northeastern state wanted jobs, development and peace.
The Bengal chief minister was speaking at a rally that was held after a nearly 5kmlong padyatra in Agartala. The Trinamul chairperson held the march and the meeting amid the campaign blitzkrieg unleashed by the BJP for the February 16 Assembly elections.
“You have seen a lot of governments. See what Bengal was (till she ascended to power in 2011) and what it is today, and then decide what to do, whom to vote for,” said Mamata.
She sought to connect with the electorate by listing out many similarities between Tripura and Bengal — part of the same province for centuries till the Partition in 1947.
“If you want peace, development, jobs, (welfare schemes such as) Lakshmir Bhandar, the development of hilly areas, and a united Tripura, we are the alternative,” she added, going on to list her government’s achievements in various sectors, including refugee rehabilitation, agriculture, empowerment of women, uplift of minorities, healthcare, education, and civic and rural infrastructure development. “Our words are not unfulfilled poll promises. We do what we say. We have always kept our word.”
Mamata repeatedly underscored how Tripura was a second home to her, recounting her extensive work there on the ground during her long stint in the Congress and requesting the people of the Bengali-dominated state to give her a chance. By emphasising her Tripura connection, the Trinamul chief was essentially trying to dodge the “outsider label” that the BJP has been trying to assign her in Tripura. Ahead of the 2021 Bengal Assembly polls, Mamata and Trinamul had labelled the BJP as an “outsider”.
The chief minister reached Agartala on Monday, a day after her party had unveiled its poll manifesto that laid stress on providing financial aid to 10,323 retrenched teachers and facilitating the rapid development in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council areas, two issues being addressed by all key players.
Mamata and Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who had spoken before her at the Agartala meeting, tried drawing attention to how much work on the ground their party had done in the past couple of years despite the BJP’s alleged atrocities.
“When there was nobody else, we were there, standing by the people. Two years ago, you couldn’t speak, couldn’t come out. But today you have managed to come out and for which I think credit has to go to our workers. In politics you need to have belief and courage,” she said.
Repeatedly attacking the BJP over how the country as well as Tripura were being run, Mamata went on to point out that the Congress and the CPM were fighting the BJP in Tripura, while in Bengal, the three were fighting her party.
“Their politics are different in Tripura and in Bengal. Aren’t they ashamed? They should first decide their ideology.... We are ready to fight alone but not compromise on our ideology,” she said.
The northeastern state has a BJP-IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) government since the Left Front was thrown out of power in the 2018 polls. The BJP and the IPFT together bagged 44 seats, while the Left emerged victorious in 16 constituencies. The Congress and Trinamul drew a blank.
Political observers said it would take some doing on the part of Trinamul to make a dent in Tripura, where it has never won an Assembly seat, despite starting work in the state in 1999.
In the last elections of 2018, Trinamul had contested 24 seats and this time, it has fielded nominees in 28. To form the government, one needs 31 seats in the House.
The observers said the seat arrangement between the Left and the Congress, the emergence of Tipra Motha (a regional party that has made rapid strides since its formation in 2021) and the ruling BJP’s electoral juggernaut turned the upcoming polls unpredictable. The counting of votes will take place on March 2.
In what appeared to be an oblique reference to the turbulence experienced by the Adani group in the stock markets, following the report of the US-based Hindenburg Research and the Opposition heat faced by the Centre on the issue, Mamata asked whether the people would get their money back if the light went out of the LIC and the SBI one day.
“The hard-earned money you have kept for the future, some for pension, some for provident fund, some housing loan and those who have deposited.... Will you get the money back? Did black money return after demonetisation? Has the black money gone into the party?” she asked.
The SBI and the LIC have invested in the Adani Group, the shares of which have taken a mega tumble following the Hindenburg report.
Asserting Trinamul’s secular credentials and its fight to survive and grow, Mamata also sent the message that she was looking beyond the Assembly elections.
“You can trample the grass but it never dies, it regrows.... Ours is the only party in India which has been fighting for the past 25 years.… Today, we are a big political tree. Now, you cannot crush us,” she said.